Film

Downtown Los Angeles, 1946: Beth Short's last walk

Here's another amazing discovery from the good folks at the Internet Archive. This May 1946 night time process shot through Downtown Los Angeles was filmed by Columbia for the Rita Hayworth vehicle Down to Earth. In the picture, the actress portrays the ancient Greek Muse Terpsichore, who visits 20th century America to torment the Broadway producer who dares put on a show portraying the muses as man-crazy sluts, and Terpsichore herself as "just an ordinary dame." Sacrilege! 

It's a fitting theme for us here at 1947project. For while perturbed Terpsichore was no human female, we think she'd sympathize with the posthumous plight of Beth Short, Black Dahlia murder victim, brutalized before death by unknown assailants, and ever after subject to vile, false rumors. (No, she wasn't a prostitute. Our offshoot Esotouric offers a bus tour explaining who she really was.) 

Now thanks to Down to Earth, we have this gorgeous footage of the heart of Beth Short's post-war city, a bright, populated and thriving Downtown that is as lost to us as the cultures of the Inca or the Toltec. Click "play" and enter a place that positively thrums with energy. Marvel at the neon lights, the late-night coffee houses, the fur shops, the airline offices, the swimsuit-clad manikins, the drug stores, the theaters of Broadway (some open all night), the street life. Gasp at Clifton's Pacific Seas (demolished 1960, now a parking lot) and Clifton's Brookdale (still with us, but indefinitely closed for renovations), boggle at Alexander & Oviatt's bright-lit windows packed with the hautest of gentleman's couture, and laugh when you spy unmistakeable evidence of just how huge a star Miss Rita Hayworth was in the spring of 1946.

Beth Short spent the last half of 1946 living in Los Angeles, bouncing from cheap hotel to friends' couch and back again. Her social life centered on the nightspots of Hollywood and Downtown. This process footage contains a near-exact recreation of her final steps on the night she vanished: south along Olive Street away from the Biltmore Hotel, then left on Eighth Street, where we are rewarded with two astonishingly rare views of the Crown Grill, the last place she was seen alive. 

Knowing what we do, the stylized crown above the bar's entrance looks an awful lot like a death's head, doesn't it?

Screen grab, 1946 "Down To Earth" process shot

As a time travel portal, this clip rates among the finest. Blow it up big on your screen, sit back with a cup of something soothing, and be transported.

Now in Phantomscreen

June 29, 1927
near Cordova, Alaska

Hollywood death came to the far north today, in the loss of stuntman Ray Thompson, 29, a player in a white water rapids stunt gone wrong on the roaring Copper River in remote Abercrombie Canyon. Thompson was on location for the new M-G-M picture Trail of '98, starring the fiery Dolores del Rio, under the direction of assistant director Harry Schenck. Numerous small boats were in the stream packed with stuntmen and cameramen shooting a thrilling scene of Gold Rush-era peril, when Thompson and F.H. Daughters of Spokane fell into the water. Joseph Bautin of Juneau jumped in to try to save the men, and joined them in death; his was the only body recovered. Also in the water that day, stunt man Gordon Craveth, who managed to swim to shore.

Motion Picture News previewed the film and its innovative projection technique, but made no mention of the blood shed in its production:

"A big picture, easily of roadshow size, and big because of spectacular sequences this is our opinion on The Trail of '98, directed by Clarence Brown for M-G-M. More pointedly, it is a presentation of the right sort, by which we mean that the presentation is the picture itself, through the "Fantomscreen," of which more later.

As to the artistic greatness of The Trail of '98, we don't know. Who does? But big at the box-office it will certainly be, unless we miss our guess.

The story is the Klondike Gold Rush, and is of epic dimensions. The cast- Dolores del Rio, Ralph Forbes, Tully Marshall, Karl Dane, Harry Carey, George Cooper, and others- is, excellent, with Carey in the forefront as to honors, and Dane and Cooper mostly carrying the

The frenzied rush to the Klondike from all corners of America, and what happened to the individual in his or her fight against the perils of the North, form the story background.

The handling of the characters in this screen version of the Robert W. Service story is dwarfed by the spectacular features. These are four in number: a breath-taking snowslide; the running of the rapids in frail boats; the Chilkoot Pass stuff, with big panorama shots; and the burning of Dawson City.

For the snowshoe sequence, the screen is suddenly enlarged to twice normal size, and moved down to the curtain-line. The effect is, of course, electrifying and carries a big punch. The same method is used with the running of the rapids, a remarkable spectacle. The "Fantomscreen" device, which moves the screen forward or back without interrupting the picture, is a great piece of show manship.

The picture will be roadshowed by J.J. McCarthy, who handled the six great roadshows of the industry's history: The Birth of A Nation, Way Down East, The Ten Commandments, The Covered Wagon, The Big Parade, Ben Hur."

She Threw Herself Into the Part

 fistsoffury

eileenbasilJune 24, 1927
Hollywood

Yeah, she threw herself into the part.  She could throw a mean left cross too, apparently.  In fact she went so nuts she broke several straw hats and mussed up the hair of several spectators and managed to bust the nose, teeth, and blacken the eye of some ponce named Basil Webb.

She is Eileen Sedgwick, and she was portraying an excited Swedish servant girl, cheering the home town team in Metro’s Slide, Kelly, Slide.  And now she stands shoulder to shoulder to shoulder with Metro and the United States Fidelity and Guaranty Company, as Basil bemoans his condition before Referee Crowell of the State Industrial Accident Commission.

We are beguiled by the fetching Ms. Sedgwick!  Mr. Webb should consider himself lucky to have be walloped by so charming a creature.

Here We Go!

Spring Street, Los Angeles, California
 
This links to Google video, which seems to have much better bandwidth for streaming video than You Tube.  Spring Street, Los Angeles, in 1897, Edison Studios.
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